The Shahadah ( شهادة ) is the declaration of faith and the testimony one needs to uphold in order to be able to potentially be redeemed into God’s kingdom. It is mentioned throughout the Quran some 30+ times in various forms and is most commonly stated as:
أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ
ashhadu lā ilāha illā l-lah
|أَشْهَدُ||I bear witness|
|لَا||(there is) no|
[3:18] GOD bears witness that there is no god except He, and so do the angels and those who possess knowledge. Truthfully and equitably, He is the absolute god; there is no god but He, the Almighty, Most Wise.
(١٨) شَهِدَ اللَّهُ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
[Sura 47, Muhammad, verse 19] You shall know that: “There is no other god beside GOD,” and ask forgiveness of your sins and the sins of all believing men and women. GOD is fully aware of your decisions and your ultimate destiny.
(١٩) فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنْبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ
Ironically, if you ask the average Muslim to provide their Shahadah (Testimony of Faith), they will not provide you the Shahadah of God, the angels, the knowledgable, or Muhammad, but instead a Shadahtain ( شَهَادَتَانِ ), a dual testimony of faith, where they include the name of other than God.
وَأَشْهَدُ أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ
wa-ʾašhadu ʾanna muḥammadan rasūlu -llāh
|وَأَشْهَدُ||And I bear witness|
|رَسُولُ||(a) messenger (of)|
Not only is this testimony as a declaration of faith contrariety to what God states in the Quran, but it is also a false statement to make according to Quran. Ironically, this statement only occurs a single time in the entire Quran, and it is made by ones who God calls hypocrites, and it occurs in Sura 63, which is also entitled The Hypocrites (Al-Munaafeqoon / الـمنافقون ).
[63:1] When the hypocrites come to you they say, “We bear witness that you are the messenger of GOD.” GOD knows that you are His messenger, and GOD bears witness that the hypocrites are liars.
إِذا جاءَكَ المُنافِقونَ قالوا نَشهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسولُ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَعلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسولُهُ وَاللَّهُ يَشهَدُ إِنَّ المُنافِقينَ لَكاذِبونَ
Why are the hypocrites liars?
The verse ends with God calling the hypocrites liars. We know that their hypocrisy is because they say what they do not do, but we have to ask why does God also call them liars? Some make the claim that they are liars because they don’t believe the statement, but this does not make sense.
If a person believes the sky is green and tells others the sky is blue, this does not make me a liar. This shows that belief is separate from the statement. If someone makes a truthful statement, the statement will either be true or false irrespective of the belief of the person making the statement. Even if they say, they testify or bear witness that the sky is blue when they believe it is not blue does not make the statement a lie. The statement is only a lie if the statement is untruthful.
Note the hypocrites did not say, “we believe you are a messenger of God” they simply made a statement that God confirms is a lie. So we have to ask what about the statement is a lie The root of the word Shahadah ( شهادة ) is ش ه د and has the derivative meaning of being present. This means that for one to bear witness ( شهد ) to something, one must be present. Therefore, one cannot say they bear witness to something in which they were not physically present. One can say they believe, think, understand, know, etc., to something, but to say we bear witness to something, we must have been present to make such a testimony.
Moses and the western mount
The Quran informs us that we cannot bear witness to something we were not present to. For instance, God tells the prophet that he cannot bear witness to Moses obtaining the commandments.
[28:44] You were not present on the slope of the western mount, when we issued the command to Moses; you were not a witness.
(٤٤) وَمَا كُنْتَ بِجَانِبِ الْغَرْبِيِّ إِذْ قَضَيْنَا إِلَىٰ مُوسَى الْأَمْرَ وَمَا كُنْتَ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ
|بِجَانِبِ||on (the) side / slope||bijānibi|
If God is informing the prophet himself that he can not claim to bear witness to Moses receiving the commandments even though he knows it with absolute certainty that such an event most definitely happened, then how can we bear witness to something we were not present for ourselves?
The following example from Abraham and his people shows that to bear witness to something, we must be present to do so. When the people went looking for Abraham, they said to bring him before the eyes of all the people so that they may bear witness. This shows that to bear witness, the people must be present to do so,
[21:56] He (Abraham) said, “Your only Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, who created them. This is the testimony to which I bear witness.
[21:57] “I swear by GOD, I have a plan to deal with your statues, as soon as you leave.”
[21:58] He broke them into pieces, except for a big one, that they may refer to it.
[21:59] They said, “Whoever did this to our gods is really a transgressor.”
[21:60] They said, “We heard a youth threaten them; he is called Abraham.”
[21:61] They said, “Bring him before the eyes of all the people, that they may bear witness.“
قَالَ بَلْ رَبُّكُمْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الَّذِي فَطَرَهُنَّ وَأَنَا عَلَىٰ ذَٰلِكُمْ مِنَ الشَّاهِدِينَ
وَتَاللَّهِ لَأَكِيدَنَّ أَصْنَامَكُمْ بَعْدَ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا مُدْبِرِينَ
فَجَعَلَهُمْ جُذَاذًا إِلَّا كَبِيرًا لَهُمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ إِلَيْهِ يَرْجِعُونَ
قَالُوا مَنْ فَعَلَ هَٰذَا بِآلِهَتِنَا إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ
قَالُوا فَأْتُوا بِهِ عَلَىٰ أَعْيُنِ النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْهَدُونَ
Another example can be observed in the case of adultery. According to Sura 4 and 24, to prove adultery, one needs to produce four witnesses.
[4:15] Those who commit adultery among your women, you must have four witnesses against them, from among you. If they do bear witness, then you shall keep such women in their homes until they die, or until GOD creates an exit for them.*
وَالّٰتِیۡ يَأْتِينَ الْفَاحِشَةَ مِنْ نِسَائِكُمْ فَاسْتَشْهِدُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ أَرْبَعَةً مِنْكُمْ فَإِنْ شَهِدُوا فَأَمْسِكُوهُنَّ فِي الْبُيُوتِ حَتَّىٰ يَتَوَفَّاهُنَّ الْمَوْتُ أَوْ يَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ لَهُنَّ سَبِيلًا
[24:4] Those who accuse married women of adultery, then fail to produce four witnesses, you shall whip them eighty lashes, and do not accept any testimony from them; they are wicked.
وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ الْمُحْصَنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَاءَ فَاجْلِدُوهُمْ ثَمَانِينَ جَلْدَةً وَلَا تَقْبَلُوا لَهُمْ شَهَادَةً أَبَدًا وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
To make such a claim by a witness, they need to have physically observed the act. This is a binary outcome. Either they actually witnessed the couple engaged in adultery, or they didn’t. It doesn’t matter what the individual believes, thinks, or assumes. If they claim they bear witness to a couple committing adultery and they were not present then they are liars and their testimony should not be accepted.
Who bore witness to Muhammad’s messengership?
The only entities that were present when the prophet was given the Quran and appointed as a prophet and messenger were God, those in His company e.g. The Holy Spirit, and the prophet himself.
[53:1] As the stars fell away. [53:2] Your friend (Muhammad) was not astray, nor was he deceived. [53:3] Nor was he speaking out of a personal desire. [53:4] It was divine inspiration. [53:5] Dictated by the Most Powerful. [53:6] Possessor of all authority. From His highest height. [53:7] At the highest horizon. [53:8] He drew nearer by moving down. [53:9] Until He became as close as possible. [53:10] He then revealed to His servant what was to be revealed. [53:11] The mind never made up what it saw. [53:12] Are you doubting what he saw? [53:13] He saw him in another descent. [53:14] At the ultimate point. [53:15] Where the eternal Paradise is located. [53:16] The whole place was overwhelmed. [53:17] The eyes did not waver, nor go blind. [53:18] He saw great signs of his Lord.
[16:102] Say, “The Holy Spirit has brought it down from your Lord, truthfully, to assure those who believe, and to provide a beacon and good news for the submitters.”
(١٠٢) قُلْ نَزَّلَهُ رُوحُ الْقُدُسِ مِنْ رَبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيُثَبِّتَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ
For anyone else to claim that they bore witness to Muhammad being a messenger implies that they were present for this event. Since no human being other than Muhammad himself was present for this no human being can make the claim that they bear witness to Muhammad as God’s messenger.
Some claim that this assessment is wrong because our Shahadah states that we bear witness to God, and we never did that. This is factually incorrect. The Quran informs us that prior to our arrival here on Earth every single human bore witness to God. The verse goes so far that humans cannot make the claim on the Day of Resurrection that we were not aware of this.
[7:172] Recall that your Lord summoned all the descendants of Adam, and had them bear witness for themselves: “Am I not your Lord?” They all said, “Yes. We bear witness.” Thus, you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, “We were not aware of this.”
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰ أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَىٰ شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَٰذَا غَافِلِينَ
The believer’s responsibility
This is the reason that consistently, God in the Quran indicates that it is the responsibility of the righteous to “believe” in God’s messengers. Not once in the Quran does God tell us to bear witness the messengership of any messenger.
[2:177] Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.
لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
[4:136] O you who believe, you shall believe in GOD and His messenger, and the scripture He has revealed through His messenger, and the scripture He has revealed before that. Anyone who refuses to believe in GOD, and His angels, and His scriptures, and His messengers, and the Last Day, has indeed strayed far astray.
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا آمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ مِنْ قَبْلُ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا
[4:152] As for those who believe in GOD and His messengers, and make no distinction among them, He will grant them their recompense. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلَمْ يُفَرِّقُوا بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْهُمْ أُولَٰئِكَ سَوْفَ يُؤْتِيهِمْ أُجُورَهُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
It is a lie for any human other than the prophet himself to claim to bear witness to Muhammad being a messenger of God. If we want to utter the correct utterance firstly our Shahadah should only mention the name of God alone and no other entities.
أَشْهَدُ أَنْ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ
ashhadu lā ilāha illā l-lah
I bear witness that there is no other god beside God
Secondly, we should never say we bear witness to something we were not present to observe.
[33:70] O you who believe, reverence GOD and utter only the correct utterances.
(٧٠) يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا